More support for barn conversions

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GREATER opportunities for converting farm buildings into residential properties are on the way, according to property experts Savills.

The company also believes that proposals for affordable homes should also be supported, further to the Government’s response to the environment, food and rural affairs committee’s report on upland farming.

Samuel Stafford, a planning consultant at Savills, said: “The approach to converting farm buildings differs greatly, even between neighbouring local authorities.

“Those in coastal or other tourist locations will generally be supportive of holiday lets, but the approach of others can vary between acceptance of open market housing to policies that allow only commercial use.

“A general support from the Government would at least provide a consistent fall back position.”

The Government’s response said: “Planning authorities in rural areas with high demand for homes may want to consider amending their local planning policies to support the change of use of farm buildings to affordable homes where these are considered inappropriate for employment use, or take the need for affordable homes into account in assessing individual applications.”

The response to the upland inquiry also reaffirmed plans to publish a countryside policy statement before the summer recess to ensure “fair treatment of rural people and places” in all its policies.

Simon Britton, agribusiness director at Savills, said: “We will await with interest to see how rural communities will be affected by the Government’s key strategy of localism and economic growth.

“Rural diversification such as the conversion of farm buildings has a crucial role to play in the socio-economic wellbeing of the countryside and we hope that this is recognised.”